How Should I Deal With Sexual Misconduct in College?

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 25, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

Find your perfect college degree

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Every year, millions of Americans are affected by sexual violence. On campus, sexual assaults remain somewhat familiar among college students. This is an unfortunate reality that needs to be addressed, and awareness needs to be spread.

According to data gathered for graduate and undergraduate students, the rate of rape or sexual assault among them totals 13% of all students, of which 9.7% are females and 2.5% are males. 

Nearly one in four female undergraduates have experienced non-consensual contact of a sexual nature since enrolling at school. Non-consensual sexual contact was also reported to be high among transgender, nonbinary, gender-queer, and gender-questioning students.

Having said that, incoming and current college students need to learn how to deal with sexual misconduct while in college.

The Lowdown

As many college students become victims of sexual harassment and sexual assaults, it’s vital to know how to deal with such misconduct in school. There are helpful pointers and tips that will help them deal with the situation or save others who are in such an ordeal. Contributing to the prevention of sexual misconduct in college are the school administrators, parents, and families.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

It’s essential to determine the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. In doing so, a student can implement the proper way to deal with specific situations. In sexual assault, your body is physically invaded.

The effect can sometimes be physical injury, psychological trauma, or both. Violations of your body include rape and other acts of sexual assault. 

There are different types of sexual assaults. Some of these include forcing someone to have sex, inappropriate touching, penetrating the body with someone’s body part or object, or groping. Sexual assault may have occurred if you were unwelcomely touched.

On the other hand, sexual harassment can take many forms, including unwanted touching, gesturing, and inappropriate jokes, in addition to promises of good grades or promotions in exchange for sexual favors, as well as the demand for sexual favors in order to get you what you want or deserve.

The term “sexual harassment” is not always associated with something “sexual.” Students can be harassed in diverse ways. 

For instance, it can be teasing, offensive comments, intimidating someone, bullying, or suggesting any bad connotation regarding specific gender types, sexual orientations, and identities.

Simply put, sexually harassing individuals do not have to be sexually attracted to their victims or derive any sexual pleasure from their acts.

How to Deal With Sexual Misconduct in College - fact

Roles of College Administrators

College administrations play a significant role in preventing and dealing with sexual misconduct. This is an indicative factor for parents to consider when they’re looking for the best college for their children. For high school students, campus safety is increasingly important when choosing a college.

Colleges everywhere are looking for ways to prevent sexual assaults on campus despite the prevalence of many risks that students may worry about.

Colleges need to be safe sanctuaries for students! Pending education amendments under the law, some colleges are beginning to adopt better systems for recognizing and reporting sexual assaults, but many provide a better approach: preventing assaults before they happen!

Here are some ways that college administrators can better prevent sexual misconduct:

1. Educate students about sexual harassment.

One of the primary ways colleges can help students in terms of sexual harassment prevention is to educate themself first about it. Friendly teasing must be distinguished from bullying and flirting from harassment.

A clear description of behavior expectations and a clearly outlined and reinforced set of consequences are essential. Every year, it’s advisable to launch programs or seminars regarding this.

2. Prioritize the issue.

Ensure that sexual harassment is eliminated as soon as possible. Once college administrators hear any case involving sexual harassment, they should prioritize this issue first and foremost. Make teachers aware of inappropriate name-calling and sexual remarks.

Bring in guest speakers, conduct in-services, and discuss this issue with the entire staff to show that harassment and unwelcome sexual advances are never acceptable for adolescents and how sex discrimination plays out in this issue.

One of the best ways to prioritize this issue is to involve everyone in the school, including parents and students.  If need be, hiring a legal counsel should be considered to resolve the matter.

3. Launch Bystander Prevention programs.

In educating students about the prevalence of sexual assault, colleges have used some creative techniques. Students have long been taught to support one another in college.

There have been campaigns launched in the past that promote unity and support for fellow students, including sexual assault survivors. A bystander prevention program can guide all students to look out for sexual misconduct situations.

Many schools invest in active bystander training to better prepare students for intervening in suspicious or dangerous situations.

Throughout this programming, students are encouraged to speak up by addressing individual concerns, performing skits about consent, or talking about how speaking up could stop an assault.

Students can contribute to a safer campus by participating in bystander intervention training. While this is optional training, it’s advisable to recommend students participate.

4. Teach students how to deal with harassment.

If ignored, harassment and victimization can continue for a long time. And these can create more adverse and serious impacts on the victim. The consequences of sexual harassment often include sleeping disorders, nausea, anxiety, trauma, embarrassment, and sexual dysfunction. 

Seeing others afraid and upset gives a perpetrator an emotional boost. Developing strong personal boundaries and being assertive are essential skills for students. When their classmates behave in an offensive or inappropriate manner, they should tell them to stop.

The bystander, as well as the harasser, must speak out when harassment occurs and file a complaint. There is little hope for change if students become moral spectators.

5. Hire security officers.

A higher level of security on campus has also proven to be a crime deterrent in addition to designated officials escorting students home. Security officers should closely monitor residence areas on campus.

College administrations should invest in more internal security systems and hire more security staff who will be assigned to rove around campus during the night. 

According to The Sociology Cinema, 95% of sexual assaults are often unreported. By displacing high-alert security staff everywhere on campus, they can intervene in dangerous situations such as on-campus parties or alcohol abuse.

On campus, security should be available to investigate suspicious behavior spotted by students. When it comes to handling sexual assault reports, all campus safety and security personnel should be trained. 

6. Develop campus safety apps.

One of the best ways for colleges to be more vigilant about sexual misconduct is to develop and launch their own campus safety apps. This feature can be integrated into their current website, allowing victims to get in touch with school staff immediately.

Designed for use on college campuses as an easy way to call for help, the tool is geared toward college students. When students walk across campus at night, they can use a safety timer and invite a friend to keep an eye on them. 

Sexual Violence by the Numbers

Campuses are rife with sexual violence. 13% of all students have been raped or sexually assaulted through physical force, physical violence, or incapacitation (graduate and undergraduate students).

The proportion of females who have been raped or sexually assaulted physically in college is 26.4%, while the proportion of males in college is 6.8%. Stalking is experienced by 5.8% of college students.

5 Ways for Students to Deal with Sexual Misconduct in College

Aside from college administrators being responsible for preventing sexual misconduct, students themselves should make more effort to deal with these issues. Here are some tips to go by:

1. Be aware of your rights.

college sexual assault - concept

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was drafted by the United States Department of Justice to tackle discrimination against sex in academic institutions receiving federal financial assistance.

It’s important to know about this content and be aware of your rights under federal law as a US citizen and where the criminal justice system stands in this matter.

In addition to promoting equality in athletics, a school’s Title IX coordinator ensures that gender discrimination is prohibited in sexual assault education and instead covers all aspects of gender equality.

Discrimination against all types of sexual misconduct, regardless of gender and race, is a no-no.

When dealing with any unfortunate situation, it’s best to make use of this government law as a prime basis for fighting for your rights. This is an essential resource from which you can seek support for getting harassed or bullied and deciding to file a formal complaint.

2. Spread awareness about sexual misconduct.

It is important to believe survivors in order to help them heal. Students should be watchful and empathize with victims. As mentioned, there are a lot of unreported sexual harassment cases because of fear that no one would believe them.

To avoid this, students must spread awareness about sexual misconduct and listen to those who have experienced sexual assault and survived it.

When a victim talks to you about their problem, you have to help them seek advice and counseling within the rightful community or support group for such reported sexual assault. However, survivors don’t have to seek outside help if they don’t want to, so don’t push them.

3. Don’t hesitate to help a victim.

In general, survivors of sexual abuse are more likely to inform a friend about their assault than they are to keep the information to themselves.

The number of sexual assaults reported by college students is less than five percent, but two-thirds of survivors tell a friend about what happened. You may want to help your friend but are unsure what to do when they confide in you.

The way you react or what you say may be unclear to you. It’s normal to feel all kinds of emotions, especially when you get shocked by such news. It’s crucial to provide the proper initial reaction in order for your friend to feel relieved and a little bit better.

In many cases, survivors are reluctant to share their stories, and your response may influence whether or not your friend continues to seek help and share this information. 

4. Get parents or guardians involved.

Make sure parents are involved in sexual harassment campaigns. In order to modify behavior long-term, parents must be involved.

As parents, you can help them identify harassment and respond appropriately by educating them about sexual harassment and its harmful effects.

It is important to inform both parents of victims and perpetrators when harassment occurs so that their emotional and developmental needs can be met.

Family members may also be able to comfort the victim even more than friends would. However, it’s essential to ask the victim first if they’d be comfortable sharing the situation with their family or guardian.

5. Leverage social media.

Spreading awareness and advocating for social change can be accomplished through social media tools. One of the best marketing tactics to help you expose the campaign’s goal is using hashtags.

For instance, you can create the title of the sexual harassment awareness training program and advertise it on social media through content posting.

Ensure you link all your social media accounts together to spread them through different platforms.

Summary Points

Additional Information: